Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Used Lens Market as a Beauty Pagent.

NPR's "Planet Money" podcast never fails to make the weekly download (twice weekly, actually) onto my mp3 player. Recently, they ran an experiment to test one of the classic theories of economics. And all you had to do was to pick the cutest animal.

For the record, I picked the kitten. The results of the experiment were broadcast in this follow up podcast:

The trick to the experiment was that participants were divided into two groups. One group picked what they thought was the cutest of the three animals. The second group was asked to pick what they thought other people would pick as the cutest animal. Of the first group, 50% picked the kitten as the cutest animal. With the second group, 70% of the respondents said that other people would pick the kitten as the cutest animal.

What the results of this experiment indicates is that a whole group, people generally thought that other people would like the kitten more than they liked it themselves. This was in keeping with classic economic theory.

The stock market has often been likened to a beauty pageant. What most people are doing is picking the stock that they hope that other people will find 'beautiful' as well. If this were true, the value of the stock would rise. However, there are also those who are merely picking stocks based on how beautiful they think the stock is, and are waiting for the market to come to the same conclusion. A classic example is Warren Buffet's method of 'value' investing.

A consequence of the 'beauty pageant' nature of markets is that it can lead to bubbles. People go out and buy assets they believe that the market will value more than they would themselves.This is partly how the housing bubble took off.... never mind the bubble and the telecom bubble, the Dutch tulip bubble of 1637.....

Which brings us back to lenses. I've been an advocate of picking lenses that have good resale value, because this has a beneficial financial impact on your photographic interests. However, you have to decide for yourself whether or not the lens you are picking satisfies your needs, or if you are picking a lens tat you think other people will find desirable. I think a good example of this would be the resale value of the Nikon 24-70. Yes, it is a very good lens, but there are also a number of competitors that do almost the same thing, but for less money. So, when you look at the prices for used 24-70's on Craiglist, is the asking price justified based on how good the lens is , or is it because it has a reputation for being a popular lens?

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